When I first announced to friends, family and colleagues that I was heading off to South America on my own, most people were super excited for me. That was cool to hear, but what struck me the most was how many people said they wished they could do something like me but they couldn’t because of X, Y or Z.
I was surprised how many people raised concerns about travelling solo: some of which I hadn’t even thought of! The truth is, anyone can adventure alone, and to prove it I’m going to debunk the ten most common things that people said to me when I told them about my trip.
“Won’t you be lonely?”
Nope. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t worried about that the first time I went off alone; I was convinced I’d spend the entire trip wandering the streets in silence. But, that just isn’t likely to happen when you’re travelling solo.
There are so many people doing the exact same thing as you, and they’re probably having similar worries. But, making friends on the road is a simple as booking into a shared room in a hostel, joining a group trip, or just setting up camp in a bar or cafe popular with travellers.
There are, of course, going to be times when you have to spend time alone, but being alone doesn’t make you lonely. In fact, it can be a good thing. Think about it: how often do you get time to yourself in your day to day life? Embrace the peace and quiet while it lasts, because before you know it you’ll have met more new people to travel with.
“It’s a good time to do it now you’re single”
Be warned, this one often comes with an accompanying pity-face. Yes, I am single, but no, that isn’t the only reason I’m travelling. It was the right time for me to hit the road for many reasons (which I won’t bore you with in this post), and you definitely don’t need to be solo in life to be solo in travel.
Whether you’re in a new relationship, a marriage or a long term partnership, you can still do it. I’ve met plenty of people on the road that have partners back home, but either they have separate interests, different work schedules, or they’ve simply decided to have a solo adventure. You’re still an individual, even if you’re in a relationship, right?
I spent eight months in Tanzania whilst in a fairly new relationship, and although it was tough at times, the homecoming was totally worth it 😉
“You’re an introvert, won’t you struggle with shared dorms?”
Maybe, but that’s not my only option for accommodation. It’s true, I’m a total introvert. I love spending time around people but it’s super important to me to have time on my own too.
The brilliance of being a solo traveller is if, like me, you need time alone to decompress, you can have it whenever you want. You can decide when it’s worth spending a little extra on a private room, or whether an apartment or hotel might be more suitable.
In fact, travelling alone is, in many ways, better-suited to introverts. I’ve gotten grumpy with a travel companion many times, simply because I needed a little alone time that I just couldn’t get. With solo travel, you’re not going to have this problem!
“Wow, you’re so brave to be doing this”
Ok, so I suppose this one is partially true, depending on the type of adventure you’re planning. Long backpacking trips can be a bit scary; I’m writing this three weeks before I head off to South America alone for a year, and I’m definitely a little nervous.
But, isn’t that kind of the point? Something I love about travelling is that it’s the only time my resourcefulness is properly tested. It makes me push myself in ways that I don’t when I’m at home surrounded by family and friends, and it’s exhilarating!
It’s fine to be a little scared: embrace it! If anything’s going to make you braver in the long run, it’s facing those fears. I’m not a brave person (ask anyone, I’m scared of everything), so if I can do it so can you.
“I’d like to travel alone but I can’t afford/don’t have time for a big trip”
That’s not really a problem, because you don’t actually have to turn your life upside down to travel solo. Just fit it into your existing schedule however suits you.
Make the most of annual leave at work by squeezing short trips in, or if you find yourself with a month free from studying, use it to travel. If a week-long holiday is more realistic, do that. Even a weekend is plenty of time to get under the skin of a new destination, and you don’t even need to leave your country to experience lone adventuring! Head off into the local countryside for the day, or just spend some time exploring a nearby city.
There are plenty of ways to travel solo, and independent adventures are incredible whether you go for a short time or a lifetime. So don’t get hung up on having to change your entire life to do it, because you really don’t have to.
“I’d be so scared, isn’t it dangerous?”
This is a very common concern for friends and family when you’re heading off alone: especially if you’re a woman. But, solo trips are generally much safer than people think.
The brilliant thing about travelling alone is that you really learn to trust your gut; you’ll naturally be more cautious and aware of your surroundings, and you won’t fall into the false security of ‘safety in numbers’. Because, when you think about it, how much safer are you if you’re with another person and something bad happens? Unless that person is The Rock or someone equally as massive, of course.
If you plan ahead and think smart, you’ll be as safe as is possible (obviously, as with everything there are always going to be dangers). Book transport and accommodation ahead of time so you’re not stuck, and always stash some emergency cash so you’re not caught short. Basically, use the same common sense that you’d use in your home town and you’ll be a-ok.
“Won’t it be loads more expensive traveling alone?”
Not necessarily. The beauty of travelling alone is that you can do what you want, when you want. So, if you’re feeling concerned about your budget, you can tighten the purse strings by limiting the amount of trips you take, or opting for cheaper accommodation. A travel companion might not necessarily want to do that, which can cause friction.
Another financial benefit of solo travel is the options that it’ll open up for you. If you’re couch surfing, looking for a last-minute group trip, or are considering volunteering in exchange for lodgings, there will often be more options open to solo travellers.
Also, you probably won’t be travelling alone that often if you don’t want to. You’ll meet loads of people that will be up for splitting an AirBnB, private rooms, taxis or car rental with you.
“It won’t be as much fun if you’re not with your mates”
Yes, holidays with friends are awesome, but solo travelling is a completely different kettle of fish and both have major perks. Our friends are often like security blankets; we create ‘packs’ at school and at work, and we stick to these people. Wouldn’t it be fun to go a little ‘lone wolf’ every now and again?
Plus, there are plenty more mates out there just waiting to be made. Who’s to say that within a couple of weeks, or even a couple of days, you won’t be rolling deeper than you do in your home town? And, if you’re travelling over a longer period, your pals will probably come visit you at some point too, so you get the best of both worlds.
“It just seems like so much more effort to go solo”
Yes, you’ll have to make every decision, but that’s way more of a positive than it is a negative. There’s nobody to please but you, so you’ll never have to compromise or worry that your travel companion isn’t having fun.
In the past when I’ve travelled solo I’ve been able to change my plans to tag along with fellow travellers to an outdoor film festival in Austria, vodka tasting in Russia, and a super-fun drinking session in Slovakia that ultimately resulted in me getting a lemon tattooed on my arm. If I’d been travelling with a friend or partner, they might not have been up for these adventures, and I would’ve missed out on new friendships and some brilliant memories (and a cute tattoo).
Also, if you just want to stay in for the night in your onesie with Netflix and snacks, you have nobody to answer to! What more could you want!?
“Aren’t you worried you’re ruining your career?”
Hell no, this is going to look brilliant on my CV! As I’ve already mentioned, a solo trip doesn’t need to be a long, life changing journey. But, if you do decide to take the plunge, there are many positives in your decision that future prospective employers will love. Solo travel screams tenacity, courage and independence, and proves that you’re organised and can achieve your goals. What company wouldn’t love to hire someone like that?
I quit my dream job in digital media production to travel, and after spending my twenties working my way up in the industry it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. But for me, it’s worth the risk: even if I lose out on a year or two of ‘ladder-climbing’, I’ll have gained so much more on the road. Plus, you never know what opportunities might come up while you’re travelling!
“I’d love to do it but I’d feel selfish”
This is probably the myth that gets under my skin the most, because in my experience this is the one that’s stopping so many people from travelling alone.
It’s seen to be selfish because you’re leaving friends and family at home to miss you and worry about you, or because you have a partner and/or children and you shouldn’t want to enjoy time away from them. It might be that your mates want to go on a beach holiday and you want to go trekking instead, so you’re ‘letting the side down’.
When you think about it like this there are lots of ways to end up feeling guilty, but it’s not weird or antisocial to want to adventure alone. Take the time you need to recharge, go on the types of holidays you want to go on, and reassure your friends and family that you’ll take care and be in touch: it’s not selfish to put yourself first once in a while.
Is anything else holding you back from taking the plunge as a solo traveller? Which myth do you hear the most when you adventure alone? Get in touch or leave a comment below.